Place Pigalle’s history can be traced back mid-century to a seedy watering hole named the Lotus Inn. Adjacent to the La Salle Hotel (formerly known as the Outlook Hotel, built in 1909), the Lotus Inn was probably the first stop for sailors to have a quick drink before meeting up with a strumpet at the bordello upstairs.
The bordello masked as a hotel was run by infamous early Seattleite Nellie Curtis. Curtis purchased the hotel lease after Rosuke and T.K. Kodama, Japanese Americans, were sent to an internment camp in 1942. She ran a successful brothel for years, which survived crackdowns in prostitution and the earthquake of 1949.
The Lotus became the Place Pigalle Tavern sometime in the 50’s, named after the red-light district in Paris. Still a tarnished institution, complete with sawdust floors and a (supposed) blind man with a dog and an accordion, it was considered sport to toss beer and wine bottles out the west windows and watch them sail 50 feet down to the sidewalk and ravine. In the 60’s the old timers that frequented the tavern nicknamed it “PIG ALLEY”. Pig Alley was a popular venue for retirees, longshoremen, some long hairs and, of course, those who appreciated hearing Edith Piaf on the jukebox. In the 70’s it became a “hippie” bar, one of several in the Market. Back then, Place Pigalle would occasionally have live music on the weekends, but the jukebox playing jazz standards and Edith Piaf (A2…La Vie En Rose) played on continuously throughout the years. These days, long after the jukebox, you can still hear Edith warble on at Place Pigalle.
It wasn’t until 1982 that Place Pigalle had a major makeover, when then bartender, Bill Frank took ownership. Frank upgraded everything from the menu to the kitchen (removing the Sears’ Electric Range), and the restaurant began to attract a serious food following. Place Pigalle is now known for its superior food, wines, service and ambience.
The present-day menu holds in high regard the history of Place Pigalle. You can still find items that have been staples on the menu for over 25 years, including the Mussels Pigalle (served upright in a cozy oval bed), the Calamari Dijonnaise (where do you think Best Foods got the name?), the Brandied Apricot Almond Torte (you either love it or you hate it!) and the Mariana Cocktail (simply heaven…).
Find Place Pigalle in the historic Pike Place Market, and re-live a bit of Seattle’s intriguing history, while experiencing innovative and seasonal/regional approach to dining.
Do you have a story about the old Place Pigalle or the Lotus Inn?
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Photos Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives
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